We at Discourse Blog have not really tussled with the Claudia Conway saga because, frankly, it is so awful.
You are probably aware of Claudia’s increasingly fraught relationship with her mother, Kellyanne Conway, much of which has played out in a series of social media posts whose nightmarishness escalated alarmingly over the last few months. (Here’s a timeline if you need it.) In recent weeks, people were shocked by videos which appeared to show Kellyanne hurling vicious and abusive comments at her daughter, and things got even worse from there.
It was quite surreal, then, to see Claudia, Kellyanne, and George Conway pop up this morning on, of all places, American Idol. Apparently, Claudia is a contestant on the show, and the American Idol social media account posted this fun little tweet about it:
Oh, fun, a surprise from Kellyanne!!! Also, “winners are people who are willing to lose” coming from one of Donald Trump’s top allies is…hmm.
Now, it should be noted that this video was filmed months ago, but even back then, things were very publicly not good between Claudia and her parents. Seen now—after everything took an even darker turn, and after the political events of the past couple of months—the tweet, and its bland treatment of Kellyanne as just another proud mom, is tone-deaf on an astronomical scale.
The full 9-minute segment from the actual show feels just as wrong—a fading TV juggernaut playing with some very serious fire in order to generate interest, even if that means softening the image of horrible people.
Really, watch the whole thing. You will feel immediately crazy as you witness American Idol‘s attempt to handle the situation it has gotten itself into.
The show has Claudia lay out the basics—her mom loves Trump, her dad hates Trump, she just wants to “get out of the controversy, get out of the drama, get out of the political, like, whatever”—and then we get some wild dialogue between her and, yes, Katy Perry:
Perry: With your mom being the figure that she is, do you still, like, does she still hug you?
Conway: I mean, yeah, she loves me, I love her, it’s just, I feel like our relationship’s a little…it’s a little iffy!
Not iffy enough for American Idol to give Kellyanne a showcase, however. She appears on a giant screen, hovering over Claudia and spurring her on. There is no mention made of any of the horrendous allegations against Kellyanne, which were certainly in the public domain by the time the show was being put together.
George Conway, meanwhile, has brought Claudia to the audition in person, and tearfully talks about how much she loves her music. (Or maybe he is crying about the sordid drama unfolding at the Lincoln Project, who knows.)
At the end of the audition, Claudia makes it through, and her parents both tell her how proud she is of them. Yay!
If you have a bad taste in your mouth after all of that, welcome to the club. None of this is on Claudia Conway, a child who has been under an unbelievable amount of pressure and who is just trying to figure herself out. It’s on Kellyanne and George Conway, two (and this is me being generous) very problematic people using their daughter’s dreams of being a singer to whitewash their reputations. And it’s on ABC for going along with them—for being willing to exploit this messy, trauma-laden situation for its own material gain.
ABC could have kept the Conway parents out of things. They could have focused exclusively on Claudia, could have said that American Idol doesn’t want this to be about her mother and father, especially in the wake of the past couple of months. Instead, the show leaned in, deciding it was worth participating in some image rehab if it meant more people would watch. It’s all so gross, and an especially grim harbinger of the way that former Trump people will almost certainly be allowed back into polite society as if nothing that bad ever really happened.